Handel’s Messiah, Ilkley and Otley Choral Societies,

St Margaret’s Parish Church, 12 December, 2015

A more apposite work for last Saturday, given the prevailing weather conditions, would have been Britten’s Noye’s Fludde. In the event the joint forces of the Ilkley and Otley Choral Societies did not disappoint the near capacity audience with their splendid performance of Handel’s Messiah. This was the first occasion on which Barry Jordan, the new Musical Director of the joint societies, had conducted them in Ilkley. His meticulous preparation of the chorus was apparent throughout.

From the rousing opening notes the Yorkshire Chamber Ensemble, led by Nick Meredith, accompanied with great sensitivity. They were ably supported by Pat Jordan playing the harpsichord continuo, and Robert Sudall, the Ilkley Choral Society’s accompanist, the organ.

The four soloists, appearing by kind permission of the Royal Northern College of Music, performed with beautiful phrasing, diction and sensitivity to the text. They ably conveyed the drama of the recitatives. Andrew Brown, the tenor, sang the opening Comfort Ye with authority and warmth of tone. The rich voice and the operatic delivery of the text by the baritone soloist, Terence Ayebare, conveyed the poignancy of the subject matter. The ‘duet’ ‘The Trumpet shall sound’, with Julian Wightman playing a piccolo trumpet in A, was a sheer delight, the interplay between voice and instrument was masterfully executed. The mezzo soprano, Jessica Ecclestone has a voice of rich and pure tone and every word was sincerely delivered. She is a performer to look out for in the future. Catriona Hewitson, the soprano, excelled in ‘I know that my redeemer liveth’; her delivery was heartfelt and there was a controlled and judicious use of vibrato.

After their first rather tentative entry in ‘And the glory of the Lord’ the soprano section warmed to their task and grew in confidence; ‘Their sound is gone out’ was sung with real authority. The contralto section has a rich and warm sound and the prize for clear diction must be awarded to them, particularly in the chorus ‘The Lord gave the word’. The gentlemen of the chorus made a confident and fine contribution in ‘And he shall purify. The ‘Alleluia Chorus’ resonated with some fine singing, the gentleman underpinning the ladies with authority and depth.

The Yorkshire choruses from Ilkley and Otley, together with the Yorkshire Chamber Ensemble and four fine soloists authoritatively directed by Barry Jordan, demonstrated once again that it takes the folk of ‘God’s own county’ to show how to perform Messiah.

Val Middleton                                                                          Ilkley Gazette 31 December 2015